The District 544 School Board dealt with a 100-page document from the state Monday requiring a three-piece COVID-19 preparedness plan for the upcoming school year.

According to Superintendent Jeff Drake, the first plan deals with face-to-face instruction, which Drake pointed out has been “normal for us” in past years.

Drake said the second plan is a hybrid - a combination of face-to-face school instruction and distance learning. The third would be a return to the 100% distance-learning model the district followed over the final two months of the 2019-20 school year.

“The governor indicated he’ll make a decision by July 27,” Drake said. “The governor might have more directive on the type of option we follow by then.”

Drake also told the board the projected kindergarten enrollment for the district in 2020-21 stands at 167.

The board approved a revision of the district budget for fiscal year 2020-21 by $615,175. The move was made because of revisions in the adult basic education portion of the community education budget. The move was precipitated by the need to reduce the budget by 35%.

“Some state allocations arrive later than others,” Drake said in explaining the decision. 

The board passed a resolution proposing to place staff member Sarah Sundberg on unrequested leave of absence due to financial limitations in the adult basic education program. Sundberg’s resignation as the ABE program manager/teacher was accepted and will be effective June 30.

Approval of the consent agenda added six teachers to the district staff. Chanelle Kesler joined the iQ Academy staff as a special education instructor. Hannah Herzog will be teaching first grade at Adams Elementary School. Heidi Retzlaff and Jennifer Carlson will join the iQ Academy staff as .5 full-time equivalent elementary instructors. Retzalaff will be a math specialist. Michaela Bengtson will serve as a work-based learning teacher in the iQ Academy. Kristi Angus will be a .5833 FTE language arts teacher at the Area Learning Center. All certified staff hires are effective Aug. 31.

The school board also approved a change in the teaching contract of Ethan Johnson, who will return to .8333 FTE status Aug. 31.

Individual contracts for the next two years were approved for the technology specialist, support staff and systems manager; the district-wide mechanical supervisor; the HR/payroll specialist; the HR director; the payroll manager; the finance director and the director of community education.

In addition to approving a two-year membership with the Minnesota Rural Education Association, the board approved a 2020-21 membership in the Minnesota School Boards Association.

With the fiscal year coming to a close at the end of June, the board accepted a 2020-21 health and safety executive summary of written plans, and accepted a 2020-21 First Dakota Indemnity workers compensation quote of $48,201. 

Looking down the road, the board approved an application for the long-term facilities maintenance revenue statement of assurances.  

The board also passed a resolution establishing dates for school board candidate filings. Board members who will see their terms ending are Matt Lemke, Stephen Vigesaa and Natie Knutson. July 28 will mark the beginning of the period for filing affidavits of candidacy. Filings will close at 5 p.m. Aug. 11. The general election is set Nov. 3. The term of candidates elected will expire Jan. 1, 2025.

The board took the step of passing a resolution valuing equitable education for all. The resolution was precipitated by the tragic killing of George Floyd on May 25 in South Minneapolis.

The resolution pointed out that “Racism has no place in schools committed to every student’s emotional, social and academic success” and called on the community to stand with the school board in working toward an equitable education environment.

The next meeting of the school board is set for 7 a.m. July 13.


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